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‘Worryingly low voter turnout’ for university elections

The turnout percentage among eligible student voters was 10.9%. The Central Elections…

‘Definitely worrying’, ‘astonishingly low’, and ‘nothing to write home about’ were the descriptions that appeared in university media with regard to voter turnout respectively for the council elections in Groningen (26 percent), Rotterdam (12 percent) and Leiden (18 percent).

At the University of Amsterdam, where activists campaigned for more say in decision-making, voter turnout was the lowest: 11 percent of students went to the trouble of going to the ballot box. The other Amsterdam-based university, the VU, didn’t fare much better with 16 percent of students voting.

While the voter turnout in Rotterdam was one percent higher than in Amsterdam, students from three EUR faculties were not eligible to vote because not enough election candidates were fielded. These students haven’t been included in these figures. If they had been, then voter turnout would be well under 10 percent.

More rights

Thanks to the Enhanced Governance Powers (Educational Institutions) Act, participation in decision-making bodies have more of a voice, more responsibilities and more rights. For example, members help decide how the millions from the student loan system will be spent. In spite of this, voter turnout dropped almost everywhere and at some universities it is proving difficult to even find a sufficient number of candidates to run.

Tilburg remains the university with the highest voter turnout at 46 percent, but even there fewer students voted this year. “This could be because of a new regulation stipulating that fewer election campaigners are allowed on campus”, writes the news site Univers. The ‘elections circus’ got so out of hand in Tilburg that the university felt compelled to introduce more regulations governing campaigning.

Voter turnout in Eindhoven, Delft, Nijmegen and Twente was above 35 percent, but these universities were also unable to escape a drop in student voters. Only Utrecht (27 percent) had something to celebrate by improving on its record voter turnout from last year by a half percentage point, reports news site DUB.

Explanation of the diagram: In Maastricht turnout varied between 20 and 30 percent per faculty. In Rotterdam the percentage has only been calculated for faculties that actually fielded candidates for election. No elections were held at three faculties.

Saint Nicholas celebrations

Universities are at a loss to account for declining interest among students. In Eindhoven, where elections were already held in December, the chair of the electoral committee suggested that it possibly had to do with Saint Nicholas celebrations. Rain was blamed in Delft, along with the fact that the network was disrupted a few times. At UvA, Folia attributes the ‘historically low turnout’ to the disbanding of the student party De Decentralen. Established three years ago following the occupation of the Maagdenhuis, the party was disillusioned and threw in the towel this spring.

In Leiden the council proposed moving the elections from May to April, but this had little effect. In Rotterdam the University Council and the Executive Board are discussing ways to make the elections more appealing, and the UvA recently launched a study to look into the low levels of interest in participation in decision-making.